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Friday, April 24, 2015

Doing time with the Post-Impressionists

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Vincent (Starry, starry night) Don McLean

After my lecture on the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, I ask the students to let me know which artist, or which piece of art, had the biggest impact on them. These artists are often labeled as boring or pedestrian as their humble scenes of domesticity and bucolic landscapes often go unnoticed. The artwork is what some consider “hotel art” or art that doesn't challenge or offend the viewer. However, once the students hear the back stories on these artists (particularly Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec), their opinions change and they view this art with new eyes and attitudes. One of the students, a quiet young man with a passion for music had this to say about Van Gogh.

The painting that I have come to enjoy more and more over the past few months is “Starry Night” by Van Gogh. I’m not a huge painting fan, so I don’t know much of his work. I know this one though and I love it with the colors, swirls, everything.
Van Gogh inspired me with this painting by reminding me of home. Being in this place, it is really easy to become “institutionalized,” or immune to reality. I’ve tried very hard to not let that happen to me and this painting, whether I see it or not, has helped me. Just thinking about it helps me to remember that there is more to all of this than just prison and someday, I’ll get to go home and experience that. That’s what keeps me going every day.
Thank you for this class.

I was humbled by this disclosure especially after a particularly challenging week dealing with the bureaucracy associated with the MDOC and teaching in this facility. I was renewed as I realized that for some, I was bringing a sense of hope into their lives, a sense of having a purpose beyond being a number in the penal system. It’s not easy work, teaching never is, but its rewards are often more than you can ever imagine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Picture Perfect

Please meet my buddy Seth. 
Photograph by Luis Saenz
I had his mom as a student a long time ago, and he remembered me from all her rants and raves about me (we had a tumultuous student/teacher relationship). We connected a beer and beards event here in Jackson several years ago, and since then, we’ve become great friends. We share a love of photography as well as a love for family and social justice. Seth asked us if he could photograph our family and we (the attention whores that we are) eagerly said yes. He and his future bride Anyee took us out on a blustery day and photographed us all over our fair city. Anyee did a bang up job wrangling the kids and she also helped keep Anna’s hair in check with all the wind.

He didn’t care that we were a same-sex couple, he didn’t invoke the bible or Jesus to say no to us, HE SOUGHT US OUT and for that we are very appreciative. In these troubling times of homophobic pizza parlors and mechanics that will purposely reassemble your car in a dangerous manner to teach you about the gays, it’s nice to find someone like Seth and Anyee that go out of their way to support us and the LGBT community.

Michigan for Marriage picked up one of his photos from my post on Facebook and asked if they could use it for an email blast and we said yes. So our smiling family, posed in front of Louise Nevelson’s “Summer Night Tree” was sent to thousands of folks in Michigan and beyond. We received many compliments on the photo and how it presented us as just another family and not the scary gays that those homophobes are so up in arms about.

So why all this love? Seth is having his first showing of art at the Grand River Brewery this Saturday. It’s a great place and a great venue to look at art and drink some fine beer. Please consider stopping by this Saturday from 6:00 to 10:00 pm to check out Seth’s photos and the work of several other artists in the brewery’s event hall.

You can find more about the event on their Facebook invitation here:

You can find more about Seth and his artwork here:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kids and art: Musings from an art educator and parent

A photo of the artist as a young child c. 1972
Growing up in Toledo (Ohio) gave me the chance to go to the fabulous Toledo Museum of Art many times as a child; on both school field trips and trips with the family. The museum has a long and storied history of arts education for children of all ages. Some of my earliest memories as a kid are from the museum and the trips I took to this amazing institution. During the school trips, if you were good on the tour, the docent would end the trip with a visit to the Classical Court to see the mummy. Our deceased Egyptian friend is no longer on view due to changing ideas on displaying human remains, so for many of us, the mummy lives on only in our memories. Along with the school tours, the museum also offered Saturday classes for the kids of Northwest Ohio and it was a thrill for me to go back to the museum as a college student and help out as an assistant thanks to a scholarship from the University of Toledo.
My parents understood my love of art, and kept me happy with a steady supply of art materials as a kid. Coloring books were fun, but stacks of blank or recycled paper from my dad’s office were even better. Each trip to my maternal grandparent’s home had us racing to my grandma’s desk to pull out the countless coloring books and notepads that my cousins and I colored in each visit. They provided us the big clunky crayons when we were little, but as we grew, they crayons got smaller and the assortment of colors available grew. We knew we hit the big time when the 64 color assortment showed up with the built in sharpener!
"String Art" by Tommy Oakley 1970.

My parents also understood the power of displaying my creations. A string art picture made in kindergarten was given to my paternal grandparents as a gift. It hung in their family room and when my grandma moved into an assisted living facility after my grandfather’s death, it followed her and sat on her television. When my grandma passed, my dad returned the artwork to me, still framed and in pretty good condition (considering our less than ideal archival framing). It now hangs in our home along with our own children’s work. Our dining room is graced by a large oil painting done by my husband’s grandmother after her time following the amazing Bob Ross on PBS. A piece done by Anna at the Toledo Museum of Art, in the same classroom that I went to as a kid, hangs below it with one of Eli’s early paintings from day care. They might not be famous artists, but we love and cherish them just the same. We have a magnet purchased at the Detroit Institute of Art that says in big bold letters: THIS IS ART so there isn't any question about the artifacts done by our two kids hung on the fridge for display. If you haven’t figured it out, we love art!

Studies have shown that increased involvement in the arts beyond the school have a huge impact on the child on an emotional and educational level. The work of Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University found that students involved in the arts were:

·         Four times more likely to win an academic award, such as being on the honor roll.
·         Eight times more likely to receive a community service award.
·         Three times more likely to win a school attendance award.
·         Four times more likely to participate in a math or science fair.
·         Likely to score higher on their SAT college admission test scores if they have been involved for more than four years of after-school arts study.
As an arts educator, it should come as no surprise that I try to expose my kids to the arts any time we can. They went with me to the opening weekend of Art Prize in Grand Rapids, MI to view my entry and have gone to countless museums and galleries with us as we have toured the Midwest. Just this past weekend, a group of artists from the Jackson area put on a show called “Renegade” in a vacant warehouse in our neighborhood. Many of the artists present were former students of mine and I was super thrilled to come and support them. The planners put out a kids’ table full of blank canvases, a roll of paper, and several different types of paint.
Anna's landscape. Watercolor on stretched canvas

Eli's abstraction in black and brown. Watercolor on stretched canvas
Where do you think my kids were all afternoon? When Eli wasn’t out dancing in front of the musicians, he was with his sister creating works that will undoubtedly end up gracing our walls in the near future. When you support the arts with your kids in tow, you support not only the artists but your kids’ futures as well.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Chronic Marriage Fatigue Syndrome

Life has been rough lately, and I have been struggling to figure out why. I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, and I have little hope left in my heart these days. Everything seems to be a struggle: from making dinner to getting our two kids settled down for the night. I feel like an extra on “The Walking Dead” as I shuffle through life and all it brings. It started back in November with my husband. We were both crushed by the results of our state and local elections.  A feeling of helplessness hung over our heads as we realized that the GOP would remain in control here in Michigan. The Michigan Republicans are decidedly unfriendly to LGBT people and to teachers. We are both of those.
We were also waiting for a ruling from the 6th Circuit Court regarding the repeal of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban. I had joked via Twitter that we would probably have Ebola in Michigan before marriage equality, and one afternoon after the elections, that prophecy came true. No, it wasn’t Ebola, it was the 6th Circuit Court upholding the 2004 voter approved proposal against same-sex marriage.  Tod, my husband, had not heard the news, so when he came home, I grabbed him and told him what the court had ruled. I could see in his eyes he was crushed. We hugged and then we bonked our wedding rings together like the Wonder Twins in solidarity. I knew that this would be the outcome all along. I had little hope of the 6th Circuit Court agreeing with the end of the ban, so when the news came, it was no shock to me. But Tod took it hard. He was sad and unable to deal with the feelings that this brought. I was proactive after the ruling and ditched a ton of my commitments in the community. I needed to focus on my family and bring what little energy I had into our lives to help keep us together. Tod went to our physician (at my prodding) and he got some help from the doctor and he is doing fine now.
As the month wore on and the holidays approached, I couldn’t shake the funk from my shoulders. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. I do however have access to the internet and I did some self-diagnosis over how I was feeling and it became clear to me that this wasn’t just depression I was dealing with, it was something deeper. I found Robert Hirschfield’s “When the blues won’t go away” at our local library and I discovered that I most likely have dysthymic disorder. DD (as it’s known) is a low level, chronic mood malfunction. It’s not as severe as a major depression, bi-polar disease, or other macro-behavioral problems, but it is real and persistent and does not usually go away on its own. DD can go on for years, and it’s often impossible for the person affected to know that it is going on. Now, before you panic, I have made an appointment with our doctor and I am going in for a checkup to make sure that I am okay. In Hirschfield’s book, he mentions that trauma in your life can cause this disorder and he urges self-reflection to sit down and find out what was causing it.
I did that, and for me, the tipping point came when our governor announced that he would not challenge the appeal on the 300 marriages that were performed when the window was open last year. That was great news for many of our friends who took advantage of the window and got hitched that Saturday. But for us, our marriage in California is still not legal in Michigan. The unfairness of it all sucks, and it hurts. I started thinking about this and I realized that for the past ten years, I have been living in a state of angst over gay marriage and how it affects me. I was heavily involved in the struggle to defeat Proposition 4 in 2004 and when it came to be, I was pissed. I retreated to my own little world and shut out the world. I didn’t feel wanted, I didn’t feel loved, and I didn’t feel like a viable member of society. At the time, Tod and I had only had a commitment ceremony to cement our vows, but with this prohibition on the books, it seemed almost impossible to do anything else.
But then there was a ray of hope, streaming in from the west. California had approved same-sex marriage and there wasn’t a residency requirement. We were elated at the news and made plans in 2008 to fly out to San Francisco to get legally married on the 7th anniversary of our commitment ceremony in 2001.
But then Proposition 8 reared its ugly head and it all began to fall apart just a few months after our big day. The voters in California approved it and we, as well as the thousands of other couples were left wondering if our legal marriages were still intact. We knew that they would mean nothing here in Michigan, but we took the time, the money, and the risk to make it happen, not only for us as a couple, but for our daughter as well (Eli was not yet in the picture).
You know the rest of this story, and you know how it all played out a few summers ago with the repeal of DOMA and Edie Windsor’s triumph before the Supreme Court. But it hasn’t been a success for us. We’re still waiting and the waiting and uncertainty is what’s causing this depression and angst in my life. There are serious ramifications for our family, both from a personal (my legal adoption of Eli) and from a financial standpoint (insurance, taxes, etc.).
It’s time.
It’s time for us to finally be able to say we are legally married here in the Mitten and get out of this depressive state. I see my doctor next week and I am going to share with him what I have found out about DD and hopefully he’ll be able to shed some light on my mental state and offer me some solutions. I need to get my hope back for the sake of my kids and marriage. I need to get my peace of mind back for my own sanity and general health. I can’t wait for June and the ruling from the Supreme Court.  It is our hope that this cloud of inequality will finally pass and we can get on with our lives as a healthy, sane (?) and legally married couple here in Michigan.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Death of a Bully

Author’s Note: For some time, I have listened to my parents talk about the decline of a former member of their church (the church I grew up in). I have grown used to this as my parents are in their seventies and their friends from the church are even older. Once or twice a month my mom will share the passing of a person from the congregation, a church I left almost 30 years ago. The man that they had a great deal of concern with was my first bully. He wasn't in the halls of my school or on the playground, he was at their church and his bullying still rings in my years several decades later. When we visited my parents with the kids for the holidays, they brought up the fact that he was now in hospice and not expected to live much longer. I shared with both of them his bullying actions to me and my friends growing up, but they didn't seem to care. My dad shrugged his shoulders and mumbled something about him being an old friend and my mom commented on how rough this all was for his family during the holidays.

I addressed this man and his bullying in my book; this is an excerpt:

There is much talk about bullying these days, and rightly so. With the boom of social media over the past decade, it has become very easy to taunt and harass both in person and on line. Much of the bullying prevention is aimed at younger kids and schools everywhere have “Bully-free” signs adorning their halls. Sadly, bullying happens at all levels. For me, I took my fair share of ribbing when I was a kid, most of it was not aimed at my sexuality. But going to my parents’ church was a different story. Toledo (Ohio) in the mid-80s was still holding on to its automotive/factory roots and many of the parents of the kids I grew up with were factory workers for Jeep or Champion Spark Plugs. One of my friend’s parents had a collection of awards and clocks proudly display on their television for their decades of service on the assembly line. I chose education as my career of choice as I had great respect for many of my teachers and I wanted to continue that tradition with my own career. 

During this time, I was still living with my parents and attending church with them each week. I dreaded the weekly service, as a rather loud and obnoxious member of the church (who is probably a member of the Tea Party now) would verbally harass us young adults, cajoling us for being in college and not “doing anything” in his stunted vision of life as an adult. Due to his family’s status in the church, we usually blew him off and nervously laughed while he called us worthless one hundred different ways each week. The Sunday dread set in when I saw his pickup truck in the church’s parking lot, adorned with flags, veteran stickers and countless other right wing causes.
Was this bullying? Probably, but we were young, and no one in the church seemed to care that this guy could verbally abuse us every Sunday and get away with it. Everyone, including my parents, seemed to think it was okay. They would laugh and say that he was just being himself and in so many words, we should buck up and take it. I think my parents actually sent me to ex-gay camp at his house when I was a kid to knock out some wood working projects and tinker on cars (which I hated) since I didn't embrace any of that as a kid. I would have been happier playing with my Planet of the Apes Tree house set or reading, but they had other plans. So I diligently trudged up the street to his house each week and pretended to care about what he was trying to teach me.

This man was physically large and intimidating and he always wore a flag pin before you had to wear one post 9/11. He would pony up to us youngsters in the narthex of the church before the service and smack our shoulders and ask us what we learned in college as he wiggled his hips and made funny faces. He took particular joy in making fun of my choice to teach art. His voice would slip into a lisp and he would ask how my classes (classsssssssssses….he hissed) were going at the museum. Never mind that I was going to a world class institution and had some of the best art education professors in the state, to him it was all a joke. If he didn't do that, he’d ask us what we had done for our country lately, insinuating that since none of us were in the military the answer would be nothing (he was a veteran, natch). He never once called me gay or questioned my sexuality. He didn't have to, his actions spoke for him.

One of my college jobs was an activities director at a nursing home. The facility had a VA contract, so we had a rather large population of veterans from all branches of the military. Aside from hosting countless bingo games and craft projects, I was also mandated by the VA to give the veterans a well-deserved block of my attention each week. With this aspect of my job, I could finally respond to his annoying question of “What have you done for your country this week?” My work at the nursing home provided a tangible answer to his taunt. The veterans and I would do puzzles, smoke cigars (yes, they could smoke in the facility, and drink too!), or we would watch old war movies that I rented from the library. For those that couldn't get out of bed, or were too far gone, I’d sit with them and read them a story from a Reader’s Digest, or I would just sit with them and hold their hand.
So one Sunday, I had finally had enough. When the man came up for his weekly harassing, the question came up, as it had so many Sundays before: “What have you done for your country this week?” I turned to him and started listing all the things I had done with the various veterans in the facility, calling each of them by name and mentioning what I did with them and how much time I spent with them. I then looked him straight in the eye and said, “How about you?”  He didn't have an answer and walked away. My heart was in my throat after calling him out on his bull shit, but it felt good to finally put this lug in his place.

Post script: 
I learned that he died on New Year’s Day.  My dad posted on Facebook that he held on until January 1st as he wanted to live to see 2015. He told his family that he had already bought a calendar for the year and didn't want to waste it. The comments after the post expressed sympathy for the family and praised this man. For me, I am just glad that the bullying stopped, but the memory of those actions remain. 

You can find my book, “Jesus has two Daddies” here:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Trollin' Hatin' and Bad Formattin'

I could not find a picture of Mr. Luke Richardson on line, but I suppose it looks something like this. 

My recent post on the Huffington Post  regarding Gay Marriage was widely shared and read within my circle of friends and fellow bloggers. To this date, there were no comments on the blog entry and it seemed that I made my point. As we all know, the internet is a crazy place, and people who are off their meds or have let their tin foil hat slip often are the ones running the show. I woke up today to a letter in my work mailbox from a teacher in New York City regarding my piece on gay marriage. To make it interesting, he sent it to every goddamned person at the college. I am not sure how he got everyone’s email, but he did. My colleagues have been responding back to his rant (see below) and have asked him to not contact them again. I appreciate their support.

The offer from the writer to “feel free to respond to my email…” is a tempting offer. However, as we all know, if you feed the trolls, they will not go away. So instead, I’ll just share with you his SIX PAGE rant, as it was sent, formatting and all. People wonder why I put myself out there, and they wonder why I share so much. It’s because of people like this that I continue to share about the inequities in our lives. I will not be bullied, I will not be silenced, nor will I stand rhetoric such as this “It is simply to tell you that you are a moral failure, a coward, and a fraud.” I am far from all three. It takes courage to put your life out there for people to read about. It takes conviction and an inner compass of morality to stand up for not only my family, but for those in our state going through the same trials due to our state’s draconian laws regarding LGBT families. And, if you know me, I am the real deal. I can’t stand frauds or fakes and I do my best to live a life that is open and transparent. When you are in the public eye, you can’t afford to be anything but.

After reading his letter, I was reminded of the time when former rock star and racist nut job Ted Nugent had a community forum on his webpage. It was a fantasy land of conspiracy, terrible formatting and copious amounts of bloviating on any number of subjects. A colleague of mine pointed out that I was not the only one to receive this letter. 

As mentioned, I will not personally engage him, but if you would like, feel free to contact him:

Behold, the ramblings of Luke Richardson:

Dear Professor McMillen-Oakley: 

     I have read your article in The Huffington Post entitled “A Holiday Letter to the Supreme Court” that was posted on December 8th, 2014.  I noticed that your article appeared in the “Gay Marriage” section of the website.  In your article you acknowledged that you are openly gay and living with another man. 

     As a high school history teacher from New York City, I have a different perspective on morality than many people.  I personally do not agree with same-sex marriage and I do not endorse homosexual conduct.  Nor do I agree with the so-called “progressive” and “enlightened” views you are advocating.  I would like to say why.  Feel free to respond to my email if you like.       

     As you may or may not know, in the United States of America, at least 636, 000 Americans have already died of AIDS from 1981 to 2010 inclusive.  The body count numbers for 2011, 2012, 2013, and thus far in 2014, have not been included.  At the start of 2010, at least 1.1 million Americans were living with HIV.  All of these casualties occurred within just one generation, a generation being 30 years (1981 – 2011).  What does it mean to lose at least 636, 000 Americans from AIDS within one generation?  Consider the following evidence:

  Ø  This is more than 10 times American fatalities in the Vietnam War (1959 – 1975).  America had 58, 000 servicemen killed in this conflict.

  Ø  More than five times American fatalities in World War I (1917 – 1918).  America had 116, 000 servicemen killed in this conflict.

  Ø  More than American fatalities in World War II (1941 – 1945).  America had 407, 000 servicemen killed in this conflict.

  Ø  More than American fatalities in World IWorld War II, and Vietnam—all added up together.

  Ø  More people than are presently buried in Arlington National Cemetery

  Ø  More than American fatalities in the American Revolution (1775 – 1783).

  Ø  More than the fatalities incurred in the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) where 620, 000 people died in the worst war in American history. 

  Ø  More than Napoleon Bonaparte lost in his disastrous retreat from Moscow in 1812.  Napoleon lost over 500, 000 men due to the severe Russian winter. 

  Ø  More than the Axis powers lost in North Africa in World War II.

  Ø  More than the Allied forces lost in the battle of Passchendaele in World War I.

  Ø  More than the French Army lost in the battle of Verdun in World War I.

  Ø  More than the losses incurred by the British Empire forces and her allies in the Somme Offensive of 1916.  The allies incurred 623, 000 casualties at the Somme for a gain of less than
     12 kilometers of land. 

  Ø  More than were killed by all the defoliant Agent Orange sprayed on the jungles of Vietnam.

     Of the 636, 000 Americans that have died of AIDS, at least 53% of this figure is made up of homosexuals.  Therefore, at least 337, 080 homosexuals in the United States have died of AIDS.  From 1981 to 2010 inclusive (within a generation), over 555, 000 homosexuals in America were diagnosed with full-blown AIDSaccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

     Even though they are a tiny minority of the population in America, men who have sex with men (MSM) in America make up the majority of the new HIV infections, the majority of AIDS cases, and the majority of the AIDS fatalities.  The tiny minority tail has lost more people than the big majority dog.  This reality has to do with the fact that they (MSM) engage in conduct that is self-destructive, goes against nature, and is considered high risk.  What does it mean to lose at least 337, 080 homosexuals from AIDS in America within just one generation?  Consider the following evidence:

  Ø  This is more than five times American fatalities in the Vietnam War (1959 – 1975).

  Ø  More than double, nearly triple, American fatalities in World War I.

  Ø  More than the German Army lost on the Russian Front in their catastrophic defeat in the battle of Stalingrad in 1943.  The German Army incurred 330, 000 casualties in this one

  Ø  More than were lost by the Italian Fascist armies of Benito Mussolini on the Russian Front in World War II. 

  Ø  More than were killed by the two atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—put together.

  Ø  More than the fatalities incurred by the slave states of the Confederacy in the American Civil War (1861 – 1865).  The eleven slave states of the Confederacy experienced 258, 000
     fatalities, fighting for a cause that was morally wrong.

  Ø  More than six times the carnage at the battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), where the combined casualties for both armies exceeded 53, 000 in just three days.

     In case you didn’t know, a man cannot become pregnant.  Only a woman’s body can become impregnated, carry a child to term for nine months and breastfeed a baby.  A woman’s body was anatomically designed for bearing children.  Only a man’s sperm can impregnate a woman.  Without heterosexual sex, no human beings could exist—that includes you.  Heterosexual sex is natural, necessary and meant to be.  Have you ever studied human anatomy?  The human rectum was anatomically designed for the elimination of human waste, not to be turned into a vagina.  Nobody can deny these facts.  It appears you are ignorant of the most obvious realities of nature.
     When you participate in behaviour that goes against nature and is self-destructive, then the results will reflect that.  In other words, the norms become reversed. Why is it that in just one generation (1981 – 2011) a large number of parents have had to bury their own children?  Normally, children should be burying their parents, but not for many of these AIDS victims.  Why is it that a record number of people are dying in peacetime rather than in wartime?  Why is it that a tiny minority of the population ends up incurring more casualties than the majority?  Why is it that many racists and warmongers have outlived countless of these so-called peaceful and tolerant AIDS victims?  Why do so many grown men have to wear diapers like infants?  Why the silence?  If one is truly proud to have HIV/AIDS, then why try to hide it?  Why hide the casualties?

     The number of HIV infections keeps going up with no end in sight.  Every year, more and more people are becoming infected with HIV and AIDS.  At present, 1 in every 300 Americans is infected with HIV and climbing.  In total, 1.7 million Americans have become infected with HIV since 1981.   Approximately 50, 000 Americans become infected with HIV each year, which means that almost 1, 000 Americans become infected with HIV each week.  More Americans die from AIDS every year than are killed in gun homicides.     

     During the Vietnam War (1959 – 1975), the American forces were incurring an average of 19 fatalities per day over the entire duration of the conflict.  At present, the number of Americans that die from AIDS every day is more than double that.  In other words, it would be like fighting two Vietnam conflicts at the exact same time, and at the end of every single day there is a body count which cannot be stopped and there is no telling for how long the conflict will last.  In New York Cityalone, from 1981 to 2012, over 75, 000 AIDs deaths were reported—more than American fatalities in the entire Vietnam War.

     The coffin factories will never go out of business as they continue to manufacture more coffins for these AIDS victims.  Do you know someone with HIV?  A cousin?  A business partner?  A brother?  A sister?  A friend?  A parent?  A celebrity?  A co-worker?  A religious leader?   A son?  A daughter?  Chances are you do. The trends do not appear to be going in your favour.  When you get to the point where you can easily name someone who has contracted HIV, then you know that the disease is more widespread than you realize.        
     What did these AIDS victims die for? What great noble cause could justify the loss of so many people in peacetime?  How can one justify the conduct that led to these losses?  What is it all for?  The body count numbers have provided a telling rebuke.  Their decadent conduct has resulted in a big waste of human life.  It truly is a vast and indefensible waste of human life.  It is amusing to watch these posers put on an act and pretend that there’s nothing wrong.  When you lose hundreds of thousands of people for nothing, people will criticize you because they do not respect you.  When people don’t respect you, they won’t listen to you, and they won’t care what you think.  Yes, there will be a loss of respect, a loss of credibility, and a loss of legitimacy.

     Take a good look at these people with HIV/AIDS.  They have tried awfully hard to find a cure.  They have bake sales for the cause, fashion shows for the cause, concerts for the cause, battle of the bands for the cause, celebrity dinners for the cause, celebrity endorsements for the cause, barbeques for the cause, ecotourism for the cause, walk-a-thons for the cause, bike-a-thons for the cause, and every other possible activity known to mankind to support their cause.  All the while they have completely ignored the morality of their conduct and the body count that is attached to it.        

     Do you not realize that in the eyes of God up above, virtually all of the decadent conduct that caused these people to get AIDS would be considered morally wrong? Do you honestly believe that an all-mighty, all-knowing, all-powerful God would endorse the conduct that these people engage in?  Where are the divine letters of recommendation to support the cause?  Where is the divine seal of approval?  Where is the divine endorsement?    

     People like you seem to operate on the assumption that there is no God, that there is no such thing as divine intervention, that divine justice does not exist, that there are no absolute truths of any kind, and that there is no afterlife.  If that describes you, you are entitled to believe what you want, but that does not necessarily mean that you are correct or that others must be forced to subscribe to your views.  If you wish to worship the golden calf, then that is your business, but do not demand and expect others to follow your example.        

     For these people living with HIV/AIDS, there is no war, no draft, and no arms race.   No weapons of mass destruction were used to cause this devastation.  The Cold War between America and the Soviet Union is over.  There is no declaration of war, and a single shot hasn’t even been fired in anger at anyone.  Yet, despite all of these factors that are stacked in their favour in a time of peace, their fatalities from AIDS are even higher. 
     The prime architect of the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara, who was the U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968, admitted in his memoirs that he was wrong to have gotten America involved in Vietnam to the extent that it was.  As a result, 58, 000 American servicemen died from 1959 to 1975.  At present however, the number of Americans that have already died from AIDS is more than 10 times that.  Nonetheless, it would appear that most of the victims living with HIV/AIDS and most of the activists who support them, will never admit that their conduct is wrong.  They remain unapologetic right to the grave.  They never want to admit that they have erred, no matter how high the body count goes.  Why is that relevant?  It is relevant, since finding common ground with these people will be virtually impossible.    

     Globally, the body count from AIDS is very revealing.  Every 12 seconds, someone on the planet contracts HIV, and every 16 seconds someone dies from AIDS. That translates into 12, 600 casualties a day, every day, without end in sight.  Since 1981, at least 78 million people on the planet have been diagnosed with HIV and at least 39 million people have died of AIDS.   Nobody knows with 100% accuracy what the real global body count number is, since many nations do not keep accurate numbers and other nations do not even report the number of fatalities at all.  What does it mean to experience at least 39 million fatalities from AIDS? Consider the following evidence:

   Ø  This is more than quadruple the number of fatalities incurred by the Third Reich of Germany.

   Ø  More than triple the combined fatalities of the big three of the Axis Powers in World War II (Germany, Italy, and Japan).

   Ø  More than were killed on the Russian Front in World War II.

   Ø  More than were killed in all of Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps put together.

   Ø  More than the fatalities incurred by the Soviet Union in World War II. 

   Ø  More than were killed in the all the gulags of Joseph Stalin put together.

   Ø  More than were slaughtered in the killing fields of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge.

   Ø  More than were killed in the Iran-Iraq War (1980 – 1988).

   Ø  More than were killed in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars—put together.

   Ø  More than were killed by the Mongol hoards of Genghis Khan

   Ø  More than were killed by the Roman legions of the Caesars

   Ø  More than double the fatalities of World War I (1914 – 1918), where 14 million people were killed.

   Ø  More than were killed in every single military conflict in the history of the world, with the only possible exception of World War II, where 55 million fatalities resulted.

     What is the point of this email?  It is simply to tell you that you are a moral failure, a coward, and a fraud.  More people have died from AIDS than were lost by all the warmongers, lunatics, racist bigots and totalitarian regimes I have mentioned.  These body count numbers have mocked you for eternity.  Why is it that the media seldom mentions anything about the AIDS fatalities in North America?   If you feel that you need to censor the body count, then you’re the one who has the problem.  You are fooling nobody.   

     All of the defense contractors that make up the military industrial complex in America and all of their weapons put together, do not kill off anything comparable to the global body count numbers produced from AIDS.   I find it hard to believe that God up above agrees with you.  If you find these body count numbers disturbing, then maybe you had better re-evaluate what you believe in.  Are you really on the right side of history?  Sexually transmitted diseases have been infecting and killing people for centuries.  You cannot blame politicians, lawmakers and religious leaders for the existence and spread of AIDS.  The historical evidence does not support you.             

     You would have to realize that the casualties from AIDS are rather high.  Yet, you pretend that there is nothing wrong.  You try to bulldoze your way through circumstances and impose your will on others without considering the morality of your actions, and then you play stupid, wondering why there are those who do not agree with you.  Is it really that hard to figure out why there are people who don’t agree with you?  Professor McMillen-Oakley, would you ever share these AIDS statistics with your students, fellow educators, friends and family members?  If not, why not?  Do you want people to see the big waste of human life that has resulted?  Why should people respect your views?  Are you really making progress?       

     There are so many different strains of HIV that scientists have given up trying to count all of them.  What about the new strains of HIV that cannot be stopped? You cannot legislate your way out of this problem.  You cannot interpret your way out.  You cannot vote your way out. You cannot protest your way out.  You cannotscream your way out.  You cannot bully your way out.  You cannot demand your way out.  You cannot manipulate your way out.  Public opinion polls cannot get you out.   Celebrity endorsements cannot get you out.  Hiding the casualties won’t stop the spread of HIV.  The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in.        
     You would like to portray yourself as a moderate, a centrist, a person of reason, a forward- looking person, a person who is sophisticated, or some other kind of enlightened intellectual.  If you think that everybody sees it your way, you are seriously deluded.  You don’t occupy any moral high ground.  You are not a superior alternative.  You are not the lesser of the evils.  You do not stand for common sense, reason, or logic.  If you think that you are making progress, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when you start claiming you are having a setback.  You are living in your own Fuhrerbunker, the victim of your own perverted groupthink mentality—blind to the reality around you.         

     History has shown us that people who ignore the morality of their conduct, who ignore their conscience, whose ideology is bankrupt, and who ignore the consequences of their choices—are destined to fail.  Why are there people who oppose same-sex marriage?  Why are there people who do not respect your views? Why do people disagree with your so-called “progressive” morality?  Why are there people who do not see things your way?  I suggest you look at the AIDS-related casualties.  Then you’ll find the answer.    

Luke Richardson
New York City

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Misfits of the World UNITE!

Our Fearless Leader: Yukon Cornelius

This is a re-post from December 2010. From the Island of Misfit Toys
Author’s note: Each year, living in the state of Michigan gets more and more difficult. Laws that have been enacted are purposely hurting my family, and perhaps even my own well-being. Recently, the Michigan Legislature approved a law that would allow medical workers serving in the public sector the ability to deny care to someone they perceive to be gay.  A rabid anti-gay pastor (and total closet-case) in Arizona recently called for the end of the AIDS crisis by Christmas, his solution, execute all the gays. Yes, you read that right, a CHRISTIAN minister said that we could end the AIDS epidemic by rounding up and executing all the gays. My little family remains strong, as we have a strong support system of friends and family in the state and around the globe. However, it’s stuff like this that make me die a little inside when I read about them. So raise your fist, your paw, your hoof (or whatever) in solidarity for misfits all over the world this holiday season. Together we can survive. TAM-O

Ever since I can remember, I have loved the Christmas special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. We both premiered in 1964 and the show features two of my favorite things: burly redheads and St. Bernard dogs.  The show is a classic on many levels. I have noticed that a lot of my LGBT friends love the show as well, and I think it’s because of its endearing story and great characters. But there is more than that. It tells the tale of a group of outsiders, or misfits, as they are known in the show. For many of us; it paralleled our own lives as LGBT men and women, especially our childhood. I remember hating gym in school, and the coach reindeer at the beginning of the show mirrored exactly what I endured with all my misguided gym teachers through elementary school.
Hermey, the fey and dentally fixated elf, pines for a better life as a dentist somewhere other than the North Pole while Yukon (the inspiration for our dog’s name) lives as an outsider in the great, white north. And then there is the Island of Misfit Toys. So much of that concept connects with me, because when AIDS first came out in the 80s, the ultra-conservatives talked about rounding up and isolating the gays, so that the disease wouldn’t spread. For a long time, as a young man, I worried that I might end up on my own little island due to who I loved and my misconceived status as a misfit because I was gay.
But, like in the show, the misfits band together and make their own family, one born out of rejection and hatred but ultimately joined in love. Our friend Michelle once sent us a Christmas card that read “friends are the family you chose.”
I agree! With all the current talk of bullying and harassment, this holiday show has a great message of acceptance and unconditional love. I may be a misfit in some people’s eyes, but I am a happy misfit.